Education Director’s Report
Following lockdowns and school closures in 2021, 2022 started with a level of uncertainty due to the continuing COVID-19 situation. Schools experienced their highest levels of absence and sickness in the first term of the year which was compounded by a reduction in guidance from the government. Although schools appeared to be under strain, VNET continued to see schools committed to their improvement journeys and attending CPD and benefiting from our support wherever possible.
The VNET team is proud of its ability to attract the sector’s foremost thinkers and practitioners to Norfolk, and we were delighted to be joined throughout the year on projects and conferences by some of the best. Mark Rowland delivered our disadvantaged project, Jonny Uttley and John Tomsett delivered our leadership project. Mark Burns brought ‘cathedral building’ to Norwich, Sonia Thompson brought her work on Ron Berger’s ‘Ethic of excellence’ and Alex Bedford brought ‘Book Study’. We also heard from Rachel McFarlane, inspiring us to the highest possible success rates, from Jamie Pembroke urging better data usage and Christine Counsell to richer curricula.
A highlight of the year for me personally was in July 2022, when VNET partnered once again with Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary to support their ‘Day of Welcome’ by hosting poets Michael Rosen and Miriam Halahmy – a particularly poignant welcome, as schools had begun to see the arrival of further refugee children from Ukraine in the months prior. Over 10,000 children were able to share this experience together, live in their classrooms! Primarily, in our role as a community interest company, we meet our core purpose – improving life chances for children and young people – by developing and facilitating a partnership of education stakeholders and professionals who share that same commitment. However, this type of unifying session for the children themselves has a massive direct impact you can really see and feel unfold.
There are several challenges facing schools in our region. Firstly, the relentless focus that is needed on improving key stage two results, especially in light of the impact of the pandemic on year groups currently coming through schools. Secondly, the decisions facing our teacher training institutions to ensure that there is a continued provision of ITT following the DFE re-accreditation process. Finally, the current financial situation in schools is one which cannot be ignored and which we must all work together to overcome.
In the face of these huge challenges, VNET perceives huge opportunity. Together, working in partnership, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience across our community and a commitment to leverage our skills to improve schools and outcomes for children and young people. In 2023, VNET is committed to both targeting bespoke support to the individual needs of our schools and aspiring to the highest standards for all children. My team and I look forward to working with you and seeing the successes we can achieve together.